4 min read

What We Share 5.2 - Quick Pickles

A playlist and a recipe for May

Welcome to the second May installment of What We Share! I’m so exhilarated to be here with you.  Here’s a recipe to try out and a playlist to listen to.

Let’s Listen

This playlist is all about the nostalgia of early spring. For me, there's always a sense of uncapturable joy and sudden change – blooms turn into fruit almost before they can finish opening, and nothing is more central than the nascence of newly-growing things.

As always, you can listen in any order. If you don’t have Spotify but want to put the playlist together for yourself some other way, the songs are all right here.

Let’s Cook

I've been harvesting more vegetables than I know what to do with. My garden turned out to be a source of profound and terrifying abundance; the vegetables I was sure wouldn't produce anything have flourished. I've had to find more ways to prepare them beyond my usual sauté/roast/soup options. One way I love doing this is by transforming vegetables into condiments and using them to augment other dishes (including other vegetables).

Let’s make the simplest and most diverse of these: quick pickles. They take about half an hour to make and keep for a week in the fridge. This is maybe the most diverse recipe I have in my possession. I'll put variations at the end per usual, but to to keep the recipe from being unreadable, I'll use the example of the quick pickles I made yesterday: carrots.

Purple pickled carrots in a jar. They're purple because I used purple carrots to make the pickles. I didn't use beet juice the way some people do to make things purple, because I like things that taste good, and beet juice is the opposite of that.
You were expecting orange, weren't you? Joke's on you, I used purple carrots.

Step Zero — Prep!

  • Clean and break down two big carrots. Wash them thoroughly and cut them into the size you want them to be when you eat them  - I recommend half-inch discs.
  • Chop up or crush some garlic.

Step One — Put stuff in a small pot. Your components are veg, sour, sweet, salt, and spice. I used the carrots and garlic, a quarter-cup of apple cider vinegar, two tablespoons of maple syrup, a healthy couple of pinches of salt, cracked black pepper, anise seeds, a sprinkle of goat-horn chile, and a bay leaf. Then, add water until the carrots are covered by about a quarter- to a half-inch of liquid.

Step Two — Cook it. Bring to a hearty simmer and keep it there for 20-30 minutes.

That's it! You did it! You made quick pickles. You can put them into an airtight container and they'll keep for a week in the refrigerator. Use them to top congee, tacos, pulled pork sandwiches – or just stand in front of the fridge at two in the morning and snack on them. No one has to know.

That's just the base recipe. You can make basically infinite modifications.

  • The veg: Use this recipe for loads of different vegetables! It works great for alliums (onions and shallots are best) and root vegetables (beets even though beets are hateful and vile, carrots, radishes). For more tender, watery vegetables like mushrooms, cabbage, and celery, leave out the added water and cut the simmering time in half so they don't get mushy; these ones won't keep in the fridge as well, so use them right away. Things you wouldn't typically want to pickle will probably come out pretty weird if you try to use them here (lettuce, potatoes, eggplant). You can use certain fruits, too, although again, you should eat them right away and cut down the cook time – I've used this method on strawberries, apples, and plums to great success.
  • The sour: You can use any kind of vinegar for this! Apple cider vinegar is my favorite, because the flavor ends up tart, rich, and bright. Rice wine vinegar will give you something more light, that makes more space for the flavor of the vegetable itself to shine through – that's perfect for more delicate flavors like mushroom. Balsamic vinegar is sweet, dark, and intense, great for strong flavors like plum. Red wine vinegar is straight-ahead sour, and really shines with alliums.
  • The sweet: This is another place where you have loads of options. Maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, and white sugar all work really well to add a little sweetness and draw water out of the thing you're pickling. You don't have to add anything sweet if you don't want to, but you should expect a very tart flavor with less complexity. I haven't ever prepared this with artificial sweeteners, but as always, remember that heat breaks down aspartame (Nutrasweet®, Equal®, Sugar Twin®) and makes it toxic, so don't try boiling them! Heatsafe artificial sweeteners include sucralose (Splenda®) and xylitol/birch sugar (XyloSweet®, Lite&Sweet®).
  • The spice: Your options here are limited to spices that exist and are available to you. Some of my favorite combinations include {black pepper, whole coriander, whole allspice, bay leaf}, or {cinnamon stick, whole allspice, ground nutmeg, fresh ginger}, or {whole cumin, fresh rosemary sprig, clove, cardamom pod}. You can use one spice or several. Seriously, experiment wildly, you will not regret it!

I can't wait to find out what you all come up with!

Thanks for being here, friends. If you’ve been experiencing the May  book and beverage, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! Tell us what you like, what you don’t like, what you’ve been modifying and substituting as needed. Remember, our conversations about these experiences aren’t limited to a particular time — there’s nothing quite like connecting over things we share across time and space.

If you have bandwidth for it, I have a small favor to ask of you. This is the time of year when lots of folks' memberships either automatically renew or don't, and I always see a slight drop in paid subscriptions from the loss of people whose memberships don't renew. That's totally fine – people will come and go as they can! That said, this newsletter is a pretty central source of income for me at this point, and I can't afford to see the subscriber numbers dip too far.

I would be profoundly thankful if you could take the time to mention What We Share on social media. Here's the link you can use to encourage folks to sign up: https://stone-soup.ghost.io/subscribe/

Even just a few new subscribers would make a big difference to me, and I would so love to be able to share what we do with more people.

Now, let’s put some good music on and cook together.